Week 7: Henry VI vs. Henry VII!

Welcome back one and all to 06/07! This week, I bring you the much promised (and hopefully awaited) battle between Henry VI and Henry VII of England. Similar to the US Presidents comparison of some weeks ago, each of the Kings of England will be introduced with a short paragraph and curriculum vitae, followed by a listing of their pros and cons.

After that, I'll be comparing the two kings in the usual "Final Reckoning" section, and round things off with a verdict. With that, let's begin!


HENRY VI of England

Born: 6 Dec. 1421
Died: 21 May 1471

Reign: 1422 - 1461

Henry VI ascended to the Crown at the age of 1 because his dad, Henry V expired after winning the battle of Agincourt and owning the French there, evidently being too famous to live. He only assumed the duties of King starting 1437, when he was 16 years old. As it turns out, he was too much of a nice guy, then went nuts, and led to the end of the Lancasters.

  • Founded Eton College and King's College in Cambridge
  • Miracles were attributed to him, and he became a saint
  • Held out against the rebellious Duke of York's demands in 1452
  • That's about it.
  • Let himself be bossed around by powerful nobles (esp. the Duke of Suffolk, who he reluctantly ordered killed.)
  • Married Margaret of Anjou in a diplomatic move which was deeply unpopular with the populace
  • Law and order broke down, and land was unfairly distributed to favorites
  • A rebellion in 1449 by the Duke of Somerset took London then got owned, showing his unpopularity
  • Lost Normandy (which his dad fought so hard for), Guyenne and Bordeaux
  • Went nuts* at that last bit of news i.e. wholly at the wrong time, leading to chaos
  • Ultimately lost the power struggle that followed (despite striking back now and then), and was held in the Tower of London till he died
  • William Shakespeare wrote three plays on how weak his rule was
* This might have been a genetic thing, as his maternal grandfather Charles VI of France suffered from the same problem.


HENRY VII of England
Also known as: Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond

Born: 28 January 1457
Died: 21 April 1509

Reign: 1489 - 1509

The Wars of the Roses ended with Henry Tudor defeating the nasty (to most folks) Richard III of York, and the merging of the houses of Lancaster and York to one big happy family. Once king, Henry proceeded to restore some peace to the land and reconstruct England. Then he greedily went and taxed anybody and everybody, pushing the boundaries of the law in this regard.

  • Raised an army of about 5000 troops and laid waste to that scheming, power-grabbing, hunchbacked villain Richard III* at Bosworth Field by making him lose his horse and creating a memorable mnemonic while he was at it**
  • Unified the houses of Lancaster and York by marrying Elizabeth of York, ending this critical divide
  • Dealt with all threats to his throne satisfactorily
  • Signed a treaty with France, putting the conflict between England and France on hold
  • Refilled the coffers which had been emptied by his predecessors
  • Opened up markets in Europe for English merchants and ensured prosperity via the Magnus Intercursus (Great Curse***) which is too complex to explain here
  • Limited the power of the nobility, consolidating power into his own hands
  • Instituted the Justices of the Peace, establishing the judiciary in England and enforced law and order
  • Established the Tudor dynasty which would last until the next century
* This image of Richard III is disputed, but why spoil a good story?
** ROYGBIV, remember?
*** Fine, it's actually "Great Agreement". Party-pooper.

  • Was utterly greedy, as evidenced through the ruthlessly efficient taxation systems that he would institute
  • No lord could escape the medieval catch-22 that was Morton's Fork, where his servant Lord Chancellor John Morton would drive the fork in a certain distance until the lord in question forked out*
  • By retroactively declaring himself king the day before Bosworth Field, he was able to eliminate rivals at will
  • Might have killed the Princes in the Tower. Either that or Richard III did it.
* This joke is shamelessly stolen from 1066 and All That.



Well, this comparison is probably the most lopsided of all of the matches I've done so far. While Henry VI was a nice guy, as he and England found out, nice guys finish last, especially if you're the King during the late Middle Ages. His small contributions to education and his saintliness are ultimately hugely overshadowed by the anarchy and conflict caused by his weak rule, these being marked by the end of an era.

On the other hand, Henry VII would prove to be a much more capable ruler and commander, defeating that crook Richard III and establishing law and order in the land, as well as a dynasty that would last a hundred years (until those Scottish Stuart fellows took over.) The one minus point he has against him is his miserliness and greed - although some could argue these were motivated by 'pragmatism'.

In conclusion, Henry VII of England triumphs over his predecessor. Sorry, Henry VI, but if William Shakespeare writes three plays about how much your rule sucked, that means you had to have messed up pretty badly.





That's all for today, folks! See you next time on 06/07: The Numbers Game!

1 comment: